Hey, everybody! Happy Sunday! :)

Description: Neal gets an unexpected surprise on his birthday. Spoilers for season 4 finale.

Disclaimer: When I first heard Neal's "He's been more of a father to me than you ever were!" line, I began to think that maybe I did, in fact, own White Collar. But alas, it appears that the writers just seem to be able to read my mind.

Returning the Favor

Neal sighed as he shut the front door and leaned against it, rubbing a hand over his face. He felt his smile slowly slip away, his mind once again returning to the ever-present problem.

Two weeks.

It had been just over two weeks since Peter had been arrested, and here he was—celebrating his birthday as if nothing had happened.

Granted, the party hadn't been his idea. June had suggested it, and Elizabeth had quickly agreed, anxious for something—anything—to distract her from her worry. She'd used her contacts to order Neal's favorite foods short-notice and had spent the day decorating June's parlor and dining area.

All the same, the party had been pretty low-key. Mozzie had come, bringing his well-wishes and a bottle of his favorite wine, and Jones and Diana had stopped by on their way home from the office.

Dinner had been a fairly quiet event. Though they'd made several attempts at conversation, the empty chair between Neal and Elizabeth was a constant reminder of what they were missing.

Finally, after Neal had blown out his candles—he had a feeling everyone else was wishing for the same thing he was—and the cake had been eaten, the guests had begun to leave. Elizabeth had paused in the doorway, wrapping her arms around the ex-con and taking comfort in their shared grief.

"Don't worry," she'd whispered—though whether she'd been speaking to herself or to him, Neal wasn't really sure. "We'll get him out of there soon." Neal had nodded silently and watched her drive off before heading back inside.

He now stood in the hallway, head bowed, shoulders hunched, and feeling more lost than he had in a long time. He startled slightly when June came up to him, telling him that she was heading to bed and advising him to do the same. He smiled sadly and kissed the older woman's cheek, promising that he wouldn't stay up too late.

He was heading toward the couch to rest and think when something on the counter caught his eye. It was just an ordinary letter, but when he saw the return address, he felt his pulse start to quicken. Tearing apart the envelope, Neal pulled out a simple white card with a drawing of a birthday cake on it. Opening it, he read:


Seeing as I'm the one in jail now, I thought it was about time I returned the favor.

Happy birthday,


P.S. I think I liked it better when I was the one getting the card...

Neal slowly traced his fingers over the words and felt a grin tug at his lips. Before he knew it, he was honest-to-goodness laughing for the first time since Peter's arrest.

His birthday suddenly seemed a whole lot brighter.

D'awzies... :)

This little story is based on the fact that the season finale aired on March 5th and Neal's birthday is March 21st. I really wanted to see Peter write a birthday card to Neal and maybe give him a little hope that they'll figure a way out of this.

Well, there's your bit of fluff for the day! Hope you enjoyed it, and please review! :)